There comes a stage in every woman’s love life where it feels like you’re never going to meet the right man, and the only option is to give up and become a cat lady. I came close to that a few months ago, after a few nightmare dates and a complete disenchantment with mindless swiping… So I started to imagine myself as a cat lady, but a kind of cool cat lady. A bit like Taylor Swift… strong and independent, and happy to just have nights in with my friends and my cats… no man needed.
But i’m not really a fan of cats. Other than my family cats who spoon and occasionally talk to me (true story), I don’t trust them. I’m pretty sure they’re always plotting something. They’re master manipulators… and Lord knows I’ve had more than enough of those in my life already thanks very much – I definitely don’t need anymore. But I am a dog person. And so what is the natural alternative move if you’re giving up on finding love but don’t like cats? You take your dog on a date. Naturally.
Grub Club has been hosting some incredibly unique and innovative pop-up supper clubs in London for a few years now, with amazingly talented chefs, one of which is That Hungry Chef, aka Pratap Chahal. Pratap has cooked in some of the best kitchens in the city, including Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s, Chez Bruce, Cinnamon Club and Galvin Bistro, amongst others. His food is inspired by his travels around the world, life in London and his colourful and delicious Indian heritage. Together they devised an intriguing and fun supper club designed for diners with both two legs and four.
A Dogs Dinner was hosted at the Popup at The Patio in Finsbury Square, a cute rotational pop-up restaurant a few minutes walk from Moorgate station. Tickets went on sale back in December and sold out almost instantly. Luckily I was on the ball that day and nabbed my ticket (and one for my family pooch, Stanley) as soon as they went on sale. It seemed like too much of a fun experience to pass up, and since I’ve moved out of my family home I’ve felt like Stan and I needed some much needed time together. So on Sunday we got the train from Reading to Paddington, hopped on the circle line and rode all the way to Moorgate together.
He wasn’t best pleased with me by the time we reached our destination but I was pretty sure his mood would lift once he figured out where I was taking him. Each ticket cost £50 and included a three course meal for both myself and my furry friend, as well as a welcome drink: Prosecco for me, and Snuffles doggy beer for him. Non-alcoholic, of course. And what drink is complete without a bar snack of popcorn?
This was a BYOB supper club, however in my panic to find poo bags and not miss our train I completely forgot the two miniature bottles of blush rosé i’d tucked away in my fridge in preparation. Luckily in the spirit of the supper club, a fellow diner donated me a beautiful glass of red for later.
The welcome drink and snack was soon followed by his starter, a generous sized bowl of bone broth with big chunks of chicken and vegetables all served at room temperature, which he greedily accepted second helpings of!
The supper club was also hosted in association with Tailster, an awesome dog walking service who for the afternoon were providing a doggy concierge to walk our pooches while we dined, and a man whom I shall refer to as The Dog Whisperer (his real name is Leander) who was on hand to provide advice, tips and insight into what makes our dogs tick, and how to encourage good behaviour and above anything, ensure they all upheld good table manners.
Back story here: Stanley is almost 10 years old and he refuses to sit on command. He has a handsome face that none of the family has ever been able to resist, and therefore has the table manners of Beast before Belle has had the chance to tame him!
So whilst The Dog Whisperer had my respect, he didn’t have my belief that he could prevent Stanley from trying to lick my plate while I was mid bite. Turns out miracles do happen.
Before the day I was contacted by Rainy from Grub Club who wanted to know as much as possible about Stanley’s character so as to ensure he was comfortable and wouldn’t be unsettled in the new environment. I had my concerns as Stanley lives on a farm with my parents and rarely goes on the lead and has trouble accepting new doggy friends… but I have never seen Stanley act so calm and docile around both other dogs and food! With the exception of one mishap where he attempted to start a fight with a Pekingese who tried to steal his main of venison kebab out of his mouth (it was like a scene straight from Reading high-street on a Friday night) he was an absolute dream of a date!
But now it was time for my meal. While Stan was taken on a walk around the square, I enjoyed my starter of steamed wild mushroom and fermented rice cake, curried celeriac puree, hens egg and toasted coconut. This was my first non-vegan meal in a fortnight (a blog post on that coming soon) and it was a beautiful way to break the habit. The curried celeriac puree was smooth with a gentle, warm heat. The hens egg was light and had a cute little wobble every time one of the other dogs knocked the table. The fermented rice cake was interesting… to be honest i’m not even sure what it was. It wasn’t like the sad Styrofoam rice cakes I have when I’m on a tragic diet, it had substance and flavour and a brilliant ability to soak up the sauces on the plate.
My main that followed, a stunning, comforting plate of Venison braised with rum & chocolate (a favourite flavour combination of mine) with turmeric & thyme mash and savoy cabbage, was so deep with flavour and peppered with warming spice, it was everything my palette had been missing for the previous two weeks. The meat was as tender as the man of my dreams; succulent and sweet from the chocolate and given texture with the crunchy savoy cabbage. I scraped the plate clean, and had we not just listened to a talk about the importance of table manners I would have picked it up and licked it!
For dessert it was a large slice of pumpkin and honey cake with vanilla cream, pecans, maple and sage dressing, while Stan was offered some much needed mint and pumpkin breath freshener biscuits for his afters. The vanilla cream was smooth and rich while the cake was bouncy, fluffy and packed with autumnal flavours. Admittedly the portion was too large for me, but I’m no quitter and I didn’t want to have the regret of leaving a single crumb on my plate later on (I wonder why I was fat as a kid).
Pratap’s food was exquisite; the skill and finesse in his cooking is unquestionable. He has a knack for perfect food combinations to bring the boldest flavours together in a truly harmonious way. In addition, the hosts were friendly, helpful and a pleasure to dine with and no detail went unplanned. I’d recommend this pop-up to anyone who loves their pooch and enjoys fine food, but if this isn’t your thing, Grub Club & That Hungry Chef host a whole series of exciting and innovative supper clubs that you should check out.
The afternoon ended as we were given our “doggy” bags which contained some more dog beer & biscuits for Stan, and a delicious pot of Pratap’s Chilli, Coriander & Mint Relish for me! I think it goes without saying that all diners, both two legged and four had a wonderful afternoon, and after our thank you’s and goodbyes, Stanley & I walked off into the sunset together. The beautiful end to a lovely date with my dog.
Special thanks to Fred Agbah who spent the day taking many of the wonderful photos i’ve included in this post!